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The Inside Story
NAVI MUMBAI: An eight-year-old schoolgirl from Airoli, Franshela Vaz, who went missing on Monday, was kidnapped and throttled to death by her own uncle, Clarence Fonseca (40), and her body dumped in a nullah in the forest area along Ghodbunder Road, it has emerged.

The killing was Fonseca's "revenge" for his humiliation by the girl's mother (his wife's sister) during a bitter family quarrel at his Mira Road residence in May, deputy commissioner of police (crime) Suresh Mengade said. Fonseca was arrested early Friday.

Fonseca, a sailor by profession, even accompanied the girl's family to the Rabale police station the day after the kidnapping and murder, but what helped the police zero in on him was the eyewitness account of a 10-year-old boy from the girl's neighbourhood who told police that he had seen the girl talking to a man near her building and that she had accompanied the man in his "red" car. Fonseca's car, not red but a silver Hyundai i-20, was captured in the CCTV cameras at Airoli toll plaza, with Fonseca at the wheel and the girl seated next to him, some time after she had been reported missing. Following sustained questioning on Thursday night, he confessed to the police and led them to the spot where he had dumped the body.

The possibility of sexual assault has not been ruled out as the victim's school uniform was found to have been removed, the police said.

The family fight that Fonseca sought to avenge took place at his home in May. He has three children, and they and their cousin Franshela began a quarrel. Soon, the elders got into it, and it led to name-calling and abuse. "After the children quarrelled, Franshela's mother allegedly insulted Fonseca before the family members, telling him he better die in the sea as he worked as a sailor. Fonseca retaliated by saying she would soon see her death," DCP Mengade said.

At 6 pm on Monday, Fonseca met the schoolgirl near the building in which she lived, Ekvira Darshan in Sector 8, Airoli, soon after she had got off her school bus and asked her to accompany him in his car to his Mira Road home where her family had gone.

When she did not return home in time, her mother lodged a complaint with Rabale police, and the police formed 11 teams to crack the case.

As the girl's mother informed her sister that Franshela had gone missing, the latter called up her husband asking him to come home soon. Fonseca then told her he was getting late because could not find his bag on Ghodbunder Road. He came home at about 8.30 pm and then left home again for Ghodbunder Road with a friend (who did not know of the murder) to "find" the bag, and came back home again after he had "retrieved" it in front of the friend. This was meant to be an alibi for time spent on Ghodbunder Road earlier in the evening, police said.
Video of Press conference
Fonseca then accompanied his wife to the girl's home and, the next two days, went along with his sister-in-law and others to the local police station. However, the police claimed they suspected him right from the beginning.

Mengade said, "We suspected the close relatives as the girl had been spotted going willingly with a man in a car and interrogated them all. The prime suspect was Fonseca as his body language and behaviour was abnormal when he was grilled by the police."

"He was allowed to go, but the cops acted as his shadow and kept a vigil on his activities as we intended to rescue the kidnapped girl in case he had confined her in some place. Unfortunately, he had killed her within an hour of kidnapping her. On Thursday night, Fonseca was picked up from his Mira Road residence, and he confessed to have smothered his niece to death and led us to the forest where he had dumped her body," the DCP added.

A post-mortem report has confirmed the cause of death as "throttling."

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